The Lake Michigan Federation’s latest report, The Natural Capital of the Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Zone, conservatively estimates the non-use value of Chicago-area Lake Michigan birds and fish to be between $3 and $5 billion. This number represents a total of individual citizens’ “willingness to pay” a certain amount per year to ensure that populations of several species are preserved for future generations.
While this type of study is not designed to place a finite price tag on our natural resources, it does demonstrate that citizens attach considerable value to the lake and would be willing to pay a significant amount to keep the birds and fish healthy. Considering that this study accounts for only a small portion of the Lake Michigan ecosystem, it becomes apparent that the true value of the Lake’s environmental amenities is actually much greater.
The City of Chicago intends to mount a comprehensive evaluation of the annual economic benefits of the Lake Michigan shoreline in the coming months. This study will include an expansion of the Federation’s work to include an assessment of how Chicagoans value all of the Lake’s ecosystem services. The Federation report can be downloaded free of charge by accessing our website atwww.lakemichigan.org/habitat/value_index.asp